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Monday, 7 November 2011

From Today's Papers - 07 Nov 2011

Pak committed to granting MFN status to India: Gilani
Afzal Khan in Islamabad Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has reiterated that his government was committed to granting the most-favoured nation (MFN) status to India and vowed not to backtrack on the decision.  Talking to reporters, he said the government had mandated the Ministry of Commerce to hold talks with the Indian ministry to complete the requisite formalities.  He made it clear that the term most-favoured nation should not be misunderstood, as it meant treating India on a par with other countries in trade.  He said India enjoyed MFN status from 1947 to 1965 and it (India) restored that status to Pakistan in 1995, but Islamabad had not done so.  He said Pakistan would never compromise on national interests and was committed to resolving all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, with India through talks.  He told reporters that any reconciliation process in Afghanistan that did not take Pakistan on board would not be accepted by it.  Gilani claimed he was not surprised over the large turnout for Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party in Lahore. He said the numbers were an indication of the dissatisfaction with the Punjab government.  On the power crisis, he said Pakistan might receive 500MW electricity from India, with the possibility of a further 1,000 MW from Iran. Although agreements had been made, laying supply lines would take some time, he added. He took a dig at opposition parties for trying to topple his government on the load-shedding issue.  Meanwhile, Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Sharat Sabharwal has said that India is a fast growing economy and neighbouring countries can benefit from it.  Speaking during his visit to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), Sabharwal said there should be no doubt that India will treat Pakistan the same way it treats other trading partners. He said significant trading opportunities existed for both countries if the MFN status is fully explored. The Indian High Commissioner said trade between Islamabad and New Delhi could rise to $6-10 billion a year. He said secretary-level talks would soon be held to resolve any issues that might adversely affect trading prospects between the two countries.
Military dead against permanent commission for women across the board
NEW DELHI: At a time when the US is now allowing women to serve on board submarines and countries like Australia are dismantling all gender barriers to allow female troops to serve on the frontlines, India remains extremely reluctant to even give them permanent jobs in the military.  Leave alone allowing them to serve on operational warships or fly fighter jets, or join infantry, artillery or armoured corps, Indian armed forces do not want women even to serve in all non-combat and support arms on a permanent basis.  Army has reiterated to the defence ministry that permanent commission (PC) to women officers should be "restricted" to only the legal (judge advocate general) and education ( Army Education Corps) wings as of now, sources said.  This came after defence minister A K Antony earlier this year asked Army, Navy and IAF chiefs to re-examine granting PC to women officers in other non-combat streams as well. "IAF and Navy's responses are somewhat similar. The entire issue is being studied,'' said a source.  Induction of women officers into the overwhelmingly male-dominated environs of the armed forces, incidentally, has also remained largely stagnant. If Army and IAF had 1,072 and 957 women officers in 2008, the numbers have actually dipped to 1,055 and 936 this year.  Navy has recorded a slight jump, increasing from 173 in 2008 to 232 in 2011. In effect, women constitute just 3% to 8% of the total officer cadre, and they are not allowed to serve in the ranks below officer level in the 13-lakh strong armed forces.  Since the early-1990s, women have been serving in wings like legal, education, engineering, ordnance, intelligence, signals, air traffic control and the like but only as short-service commission (SSC) officers for a maximum of 14 years. Women have been getting PC only in the medical stream as doctors, dentists and nurses.  After a lot of struggle and court cases, the government in 2008 decided to give PC prospectively to women officers in the legal and education branches, as also the 'naval constructor' department and IAF's accounts branch, from the 2008-2009 batch onwards.  "The forces perpetually crib about the acute shortage of officers but still keep women out. Women must get PC in all non-combat wings, if not in combat ones at present, because it's difficult to find an alternative career in the mid-30s,'' said a woman officer.  The military top brass, however, for long has contended that granting PC to women officers across the board is unfeasible due to "operational, practical and cultural problems'' at this stage.  "Legal and education wings do not involve command of men or battalions. If PC is granted to women in other streams, then they will have to be given command at some stage, for which they are not currently trained. The decision has to be based on military needs and organizational requirements,'' said a senior officer.
A more civil way to peace
He may have been the most low-key of the three Kashmir interlocutors, but MM Ansari has a valid point when he says that the army’s much-hyped Operation Sadbhavana is further undermining the civil administration in the state. This is not a popular point of view, but one which merits serious consideration. The army has become such an over-arching presence in the state that not many have noticed that it has encroached substantially into areas of administration and governance, which in the long-run will be counterproductive. The delivery of basic public services cannot be the army’s responsibility unless in the case of a natural disaster or other extreme circumstances.  There is no doubt that the civil administration in the state has to be strengthened. This cannot happen as long as the army takes over its functions. Faced with irrelevance, it will lose the motivation to work and at best become slothful, at worst, corrupt. The army, for its part, cannot be bogged down providing basic amenities, its job is to keep the peace which it must do unhindered. Today, there seems to be a greater willingness to return to normalcy in the state. This can only be bolstered if grassroots bodies like the panchayats are given more teeth. They must be given an incentive to function effectively, something that cannot happen as long as the army usurps their powers. The army, in a democracy like India, is to be used only in extenuating circumstances internally. But if the army is called upon to fix leaking taps and repair crumbling culverts, it loses even that authority which it is meant to exercise in conditions where the civil administration is unable to function effectively.  The friction between the army and the locals makes it all the more vital for the army to reduce its visibility, not increase it. To this end, chief minister Omar Abdullah is on the right track when he endorses the phased withdrawal of the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). There is no doubt that the army has done yeoman’s service in instilling confidence among young people, listening to and addressing their troubles. But it should serve as nothing more than a facilitator between the people and the civil administration now that a fragile peace prevails.  Once an accountable civil administration is in place, the army will quite naturally reduce its role and this will pay political and peace dividends. While it is too early to break out the champagne, the signals from Pakistan today suggest that the peace we are seeing may not be another false start. A reduction in the army’s role would only add to this sense of well-being in a state where an entire generation has grown up knowing little but violence. Mr Ansari has certainly made up for his taking a back seat over the last year by coming up with a formula which could well provide the foundations for a lasting peace.
Pakistan Army a stakeholder in dialogue with India
Islamabad : The Pakistan Army is a stakeholder in the dialogue process with India, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar has said, adding the most favoured nation (MFN) status has been granted to New Delhi.  Khar told mediapersons in Lahore Saturday that the MFN status to India was given with the approval of the federal cabinet on the assurance that New Delhi would waive non-tarrif barriers as part of the dialogue process.  She said New Delhi had assured Islamabad that it would not block Pakistan's way in Preferential Market Access by the European Union unlike in the past, reported the Associated Press of Pakistan.  She said the army was a stakeholder in the dialogue process with India, and that all institutions in the country supported the idea of improving relations with India.  Her comments followed Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's reported statement that the cabinet had only given its approval in principle to moved forward on the issue of MFN status.  India granted the MFN status to Pakistan in 1996 but Islamabad did not reciprocate -- until Pakistan Information Minister Firdous Awan made the announcement four days ago.  Asked about the Kashmir dispute, the foreign minister said Pakistan desired result-oriented dialogue with India. The country had achieved much more than expected during the dialogue process.  She said that stability in the region was of primary importance to Pakistan as its role was proactive in building relations with neighbouring countries.  Khar said: "Promoting relations and enhancing economic as well as political ties with countries like Turkey, Afghanistan and India are the cornerstone of country's foreign policy."  Calling the country's membership of the UN Security Council (UNSC) an achievement, she said it had dispelled the impression that Pakistan was isolated internationally.  Pakistan's proactive role in the sixth summit dialogue in Turkey as well as the trilateral dialogue in Afghanistan was another proof of Pakistan's desire to promote regional peace, said Khar.  Meanwhile, The News International Sunday hailed the grant of MFN status to India, saying it "can lead to a peace dividend".  "A workable and acceptable deal to openly trade with India has been precluded by concerns about the consequences that normalising trade relations with India could have on Pakistan's security."  It said that an addition in this saga of "misplaced insecurity relates to the granting of MFN status to India".  Referring to seemingly contradictory statements from Gilani and Firdous, the paper said there was "no doubt that incoherent, contradictory signalling and statements from different quarters have created avoidable confusion".  It went on to say that granting MFN status to India would strengthen Islamabad's case for the "removal of non-tariff barriers, a major source of the current inequity in bilateral trade between the two countries, which mostly accrues to Pakistan's disadvantage".  It said MFN status would reduce informal trade between Pakistan and India and generate more revenue and create incentives for Islamabad to improve the quality of its products to compete with Indian imports.  Trade between India and Pakistan, currently at around $2.5 billion, is expected to double over the next three years with the MFN status to India.  "The normalisation of economic relationships can lead to a peace dividend," the paper added.
42 Army aviators pass Combat Army Aviation Training School in Nashik
Forty-two Army aviators from Course 16 passed out from Combat Army Aviation Training School (CATS) in Nashik on Friday. The event was followed by some breathtaking display by the Cheetah, Chetak and Dhruv helicopters which showcased the skills of army aviation pilots.  The aviators earned their ‘wings’ and were certified to be army aviation pilots after they successfully completed the 13-month course which was conducted in three phases.  Army Aviation Corps, which completes 25 years of service this month, plays a significant role in northern and eastern sectors and the officer pilots will now be posted at different reconnaissance and observation or utility units.  Chief guest Lieutenant General Gurdeep Singh, Commandant School of Artillery, reminded the young officers of the elite core to be prepared for operational environment. “The Indian Army is active in dealing with operations in Jammu and Kashmir and eastern sector. As pilots, you will have to get into a professional groove and hone the art of combat management,’’ Singh said.  Singh appreciated the role of CATS and the flying instructors whose efforts have given the Army Aviation Corps its best pilots.  Speaking to media persons, commandant CATS, Brigadier Rajiv Raina said that Army Aviation Corps had evolved from being merely a support arm to being an active manouevring arm of Indian Army.
 India's Defence Security Corps to grow by 30 per cent
NEW DELHI: In order to boost security of its defence office and strategic installations across the country, India will increase the manpower of a specialist force by 30 per cent before 2015.  In a major expansion, the Defence Security Corps (DSC), which performs exclusively the role of securing defence offices and critical strategic installations, will grow to about 42,000 men in the next four years from its present strength of 31,000 men, government officials said.  The proposed accretion to the force was approved this year and the effort to recruit 9,900 more men before 2015 commenced on Aug 1, officials said.  With the new recruits, the DSC plans to raise additional 330 platoons of around 30 men each in the next four years.  Usually, the DSC recruits army personnel who retire at a very young age, to provide them an opportunity at re-employment.  "Raising of additional 330 platoons for the DSC has been approved by the government and it has commenced from Aug. 1. The process will be completed in four years from now," one official said.  The DSC, previously known as Defence Department Constabulary Centre, was raised in April 1947 at Mathura in Uttar Pradesh to ensure the protection and security of designated defence installations against sabotage and pilferage.  The DSC performs this duty in addition to the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) at India's nuclear laboratories and Defence Research and Development Organisation ( DRDO) establishments.  While, the CISF is purely a civilian central government security force under the home ministry, the DSC is a force under the defence ministry and comprises mainly superannuated soldiers, who are re-employed for a few years.

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